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Bum rap Man fined CHF1,100 for calling Zurich policeman an ‘arsehole’

Zurich police officers

Police officers keeping order in Zurich's banking district

(Keystone)

A 64-year-old man who lost his temper at a Swiss police station and told a policeman he was an arsehole has been ordered to pay CHF1,100 ($1,130). 

In September 2019, the man and the 31-year-old cantonal policeman got into a heated argument at the counter of the police station in Stäfa, a normally genteel municipality overlooking Lake Zurich. 

Why the man was so upset is not clear from the recently published penal order against him. What is clear is that the policeman took exception to the comparison and filed a complaint. 

The local public prosecutor agreed with the policeman and concluded that the insult had been uttered “knowingly and deliberately” and had “violated the policeman’s honour”. 

The public prosecutor gave the man a conditional fine of CHF700 for insulting another person. He will only have to pay this if he has another outburst in the next two years. 

However, it was still an expensive word choice: the man was ordered to pay CHF300 on top of legal costs of CHF800. 

Reported cases 

How often police officers are called names is not recorded statistically. “But being insulted is part of everyday life nowadays,” says Johanna Bundi Ryser, president of the Association of Swiss Police Officers. 

She says many officers don’t report such verbal attacks, believing they are part of the job and are not directed against them personally but rather against the state – which the police represent for many citizens. 

However, Bundi Ryser thinks it’s a “great pity” that insults against police officers are not reported more consistently. “After all, verbal outbursts are not infrequently the first step in serious attacks,” she said. 

 The law

Here is Article 177 of the Swiss Criminal Codeexternal link, Offence against personal honour/insult: 

1 Any person who attacks the honour of another verbally, in writing, in pictures, through gestures or through acts of aggression is liable on complaint to a monetary penalty not exceeding 90 daily penalty units. 

2 If the insulted party has directly provoked the insult by improper behaviour, the court may dispense with imposing a penalty on the offender. 

3 If there is an immediate response to the insult by way of a retaliatory insult or act of aggression, the court may dispense with imposing a penalty on either or both offenders.

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